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Monthly Archives: July 2018

Vacation

 

Possibly as an escape, I’ve noticed myself imagining trips around the world, like, visiting my high school friend in Israel, or wandering through the Luxembourg gardens in Paris, or trying out my tiny cache of Spanish in Mexico or Barcelona. I want to go back to Prince Edward Island, where we went camping when I was three and four years old, to see it again in person. Then to Montreal, to see what French bagels taste like, or what Yiddish flavored French sounds like. I want to go on a cruise to Alaska, or Newfoundland. I want to see more of the world, but not the hot spots. I can’t deal with the hot spots. I’d have to go to Israel in the winter in order to bear it. I’d like to go on the Orient Express, or something like it, and write mysteries as I go. I want to go to New Zealand and see all of the places Mom took pictures of on her trip ten years ago.

But I worry. Vacations have never quite gone the way I hoped, if only because I bring myself with me. I don’t get a vacation from self-loathing, or exhaustion, or physical pain. I want to be someone who can walk all day through the streets of Paris, or Montreal, or Venice (unless Venice is all canals at this point), but I know I can’t do that. I’d wipe out in the first hour and need to lie down and wrap myself in heating pads just to make it to day two.

And Cricket is a real obstacle. I’m not sure there’s any place Cricket would be willing to stay, without her humans, for more than two minutes. We used to go for weekend trips upstate, or to DC, and bring Cricket (and Butterfly) along, but Cricket is a lot of work on a trip, and doesn’t do much to ingratiate herself to outsiders. She’s a special horror in elevators.

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Miss Butterfly, with her roll of paper towels, on a road trip.

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Miss Cricket, helping Grandma drive.

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“Get me out of this elevator, right now!”

The other option is to go by myself and leave Cricket with her grandma at home, but that sounds awful to me. I had this idea for a trip across Europe, to follow in my mom’s footsteps from her solo trip when she was eighteen years old, and stayed in youth hostels, and went to acting camp in the south of France, and visited the Aran Islands, because they were the star of her favorite play. But I wouldn’t want to take that trip without her there to tell me what happened where and how things have changed since then.

And then there’s the logistics, like updating my passport, figuring out maps in strange cities, and getting any kind of clue about the exchange rate between dollars and euros. And would my cell phone even work? And, really, who could afford such a trip?

There’s one other thing that gives me pause.      My rabbi has a habit of saying that one of the few things he asks of his daughters is that they keep their passports up to date, just in case. And he doesn’t mean just in case they take a family trip to Greece. He means, just in case America spits us out as the strangers we are, and we have to be ready to run. This is my country. This is where I was born and where my parents, and three of my four grandparents, were born. This is my context. Long Island, New York, USA. It’s hard to see a vacation out of this country as a good thing, when in the back of my mind I’m afraid that I won’t be allowed back in, or won’t want to return, which would be even worse.

So, for now, I’m just going to live in my imagination, and practice my languages, and wonder what the trip would be like. Cricket likes this idea much better, too.

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Much, much better.

 

The Trump Effect

I haven’t been writing about politics much in here, for a while, partly because I know that I have bloggy friends with very different views from mine and I don’t want to make them feel unwelcome, and partly because I need a place to escape from politics. But I realized recently that I’ve been leaving out a big part of why I feel the way I feel every day. I tell you about school, and religion, and dogs, and grief, all of which are huge parts of my life, but I also watch the news every day, and I am deeply affected by what I see and hear there.

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“I never watch the news.”

My brother once said to me that, of everyone he knows, I am the least tolerant of liars, as if I have a block against it (which makes the whole writing novels thing pretty hysterical!). So watching a president who is this comfortable with lying really gets to me. The fact is, my father was a liar. He lied so well that he wasn’t sure, eventually, what was true and what was false. He lied to me about me. He used the “lie three times and they’ll believe the lie” rule. He made it so that I could tell the truth a hundred times, and no one would believe me, because his lie sounded better.

Having a president who triggers so many memories of my childhood has been difficult for me, separate from all of the actual, real world consequences of having this man as the president of my country. I grew up living in a reality war, where what I saw in front of me was regularly denied, muted, minimized, or altered completely. It’s hard to hold on to the truth when you feel like you’re the only one seeing it and believing it.

 

I know that there are good people who think that this president is worth the trouble, maybe because they see his overall goals as worth the methods he uses to reach them, or because they feel that he is laying bare the underbelly of politics, and showing us the real calculations involved, or maybe it’s all about the Supreme Court. I don’t know.

I appreciate the people on TV who try to make it all more bearable and understandable, explaining each time the norms, that I assumed were laws, are being trampled. But they have their limits too. I get very frustrated when people I usually like think it’s funny to laugh at Eric Trump, and his presumed status as the unloved son. If true, it’s nothing to laugh at, and if it’s not true, it’s cruel to suggest such a thing. Criticize him for what he says and does, not for something that is out of his control. The worst thing, recently, was hidden by the hullabaloo around Sam Bee using the C word about Ivanka Trump. When I watched her show, the night before, I was very angry because she said that Ivanka should dress up in her sexiest outfit, and go to her father, to convince him to change his policies. There have been many signs that Ivanka’s father has sexualized his relationship with her: in modeling photos, in interviews, and in how he touches her in public. I don’t know if there’s more to it than that, but all of that is what HE has done to HER. Implying that she is complicit in his abuse of her, and should actively take advantage of it, is cruel, and, fundamentally, unnecessary. Criticize Ivanka for her own moral lapses, and for excusing so much of her father’s behavior in public venues, but don’t use her possible status as a child sexual abuse victim against her. That’s the line that Sam Bee crossed in my mind. I don’t care about an epithet.

Given all of that, I still watch Sam Bee, and John Oliver, and Trevor Noah, and Steven Colbert. I watch Rachel Maddow regularly, because she lets me breathe for a few minutes every night. She’s a storyteller and a historian, and she’s able to put things in context for me in a way that headlines and screaming panels of experts generally can’t do. Though I wish she would stop telling me to “hold that thought” before commercial breaks, because usually it’s a thought I really don’t want to hold onto.

And then I watch Steven Colbert, and he lets me know that I’m not the only one who sees what I’m seeing and knows what I know, and he goes a step further and makes fun of it, making it just a little bit less overwhelming. I live for those moments. I could have used a Steven Colbert narrating my childhood, summarizing the crazy of each day with sympathy and understanding. It wouldn’t have changed the reality, but it could have made it more bearable.

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Company always makes things more bearable.

I believe that there is great power in holding people responsible for their actions, and making the truth visible, so that we can reckon with it. And humor is a great tool for pointing these truths out, and poking holes in the nonsense, and giving people a release valve for all of the anger and fear and stress that has been created. But, please, make fun of people for the things they do, and the things they can control, or choose not to control; don’t make fun of them for things they can’t change. And really, Trump provides plenty of material to choose from.

Cricket, thank god, has no idea what the people on the TV are saying. As long as she has her safe home and good food, she’s pretty sure everything’s going to be okay. I try hard to believe her.

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“If you hold a stick in your mouth it makes a smile, Mommy. You should try it.”